I used to hate running. With passion. In fact, my old business partner once dared me to run a marathon to which I laughed and declared I would rather climb a mountain. Ten months later, standing on top of Kilimanjaro, for the first time I experienced the power of exercise.
So it got me thinking. I’ve just climbed the highest mountain in Africa, surely I can run for five minutes without feeling like I am going to die. Who knows, I might even enjoy it. Getting started was simple-ish. For anyone that knows me and my obsession with apps, I buried myself in the app store to find one to support my new hobby and obviously bought myself all the gear!
I downloaded the Nike running app (NRC) and set myself a challenge ‘to run around the block’. Over the course of that week, that 5-minute struggle turned into a very manageable 3-minute run, which then expanded to a comfortable 1k, then to a mind-blowing mile. The last time I ran a mile was when I was in my teens, so I was absolutely buzzing. Since that week almost three years ago, running has become a huge part of my life. Every run I complete, whether a 3k, 5k or a 10k feels like I’ve climbed a mountain (and I do a happy clap at the end of every run!).
I visualise the start line and I visualise my goal. I’m not the fastest, I haven’t run the furthest and there is always room for improvement but I can’t deny, I love the journey. I apply the same principles and motivation to my day-to-day life of running a business. Some runs make me feel like superwoman, other runs I just need my mum! However, keeping focused and consistent remains my priority.
Now I run every day and for quite a specific purpose. I am learning more about myself than ever before. It’s no secret that exercise has multiple benefits for us all. For me running and running a business are so closely linked and here’s why:
I plan my run the day before, much like having a to-do list for work the next day. I check the weather, I get my running gear prepared and I visualise my run. That mental preparation enables me to put my right foot in front of my left and just get going. I use this preparatory routine to plan my workday, prioritising tasks and creating a workspace that is easy to jump in to. Without this planning, I can quite easily fall into that black hole of Gmail or get lost in asana boards without paying attention to the why, what and how. For those particularly boring (accounts) tasks or (rainy day) runs – that no one wants to do! I know completing it will give me a real sense of pride – visualising the results can be enough to get me through.
Nothing motivates me more than seeing and feeling the benefits of progression. Pushing myself to new levels of fitness or learning something new at work reminds me that whilst I can’t do everything, I can do anything. It’s not always pleasant and sometimes the physical and emotional toll can be both frustrating and painful, but there is always growth that outweighs the bad every time. The more I grow the more I understand myself a little bit more, moving closer towards a better me.
3. Single Tasking
When I run, I have to be utterly focused. I don’t multitask- I can’t. I can’t send an email and cross the road safely at the same time, let alone reach a PB, trust me I’ve tried. Over the last year, I have tried to train myself to adopt this approach in business in order to get things done, moving towards a more productive workday (this is still a work in progress!).
When I was in my twenties my first business failed and I was heartbroken. The effects of the failure stuck with me for years and it manifested in feelings of anxiety and lows. When I exercise, it reduces my stress and helps build a stronger more determined mindset. I work on resilience daily and as I prove that I can put my physical body through its paces, I’ve learned that I can do so mentally. The daily challenges of entrepreneurship feel less daunting and the prospect of a run (even when I don’t want to) becomes manageable and doable and I feel stronger for it.
When you run your own business the buck stops with you. You are entirely responsible for everything. I am responsible for my thoughts, my actions, my goals, clients, projects and everything in between. Running enables me to develop these skills. I am a believer that ‘either you run your day or your day runs you.’
Not everything can go to plan despite my best intentions and efforts, and that doesn’t mean it’s over by a long shot. It’s just a reminder that I need to take control of the situation, pivot and try again. Knowing when to stop and refocus is important. I find that when productivity and creativity are lacking or things are going wrong, it shouldn’t be forced. Sometimes moving on to another task helps move me forward even if it means deviating from the original plan – and that is totally ok!
Routine and consistency are everything for me and by showing up day in and day out I focus on incremental improvements and building momentum. It provides the foundations for growth and I apply this to living a healthier life and taking a more balanced approach to work.
Running can be quite a solitary way to spend time. In the last year, I have valued this time to have some headspace but also have really enjoyed running with friends. It’s a great way to keep each other motivated. Most apps nowadays allow you to connect to an online community. You can cheer each other along (literally) and it ties in with a feeling of not be afraid to tell someone you are struggling and in need of support. I am becoming more comfortable with being able to ask friends and colleagues for help and also knowing when to step in and offer help too.
9. Be kind
I am a little hard on myself particularly when it comes to working. I find it hard to say I am proud of what I have achieved over the years, where I find it’s much easier to give myself close to a standing ovation when I complete a 5k. So running is definitely teaching me to be kinder to myself and acknowledge my wins no matter how big or small. One thing that particularly stood out, is a guided run by Headspace’s Andy Puddicombe – talk to yourself as if you are talking to a friend. You wouldn’t berate someone you love or care about, so why do it to yourself? This has been really useful in helping me reframe negative narratives.
10. Eyes in front
Lastly, eyes in front looking ahead all the time because looking back simply means potentially tripping over what is in front of you (opportunities or otherwise.) Focus, focus, focus and I know where I am aiming to go.
So for me, there are a lot of similarities between running and running a business. and the key elements I’ve talked through are essential to any growing brand: now get out there and run! And of course, if you have a similar experience or have a story to share, we’d love to hear from you!
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